AMV BBDO appoints Saatchi & Saatchi's Sam Hawkey as CEO

Sam Hawkey: moving to run AMV BBDO as CEO
Sam Hawkey: moving to run AMV BBDO as CEO

Saatchis' chief executive will move to the Omnicom agency later this year.

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO has appointed Sam Hawkey, chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi London, as its new CEO.

In his new role, Hawkey will run the 300-strong agency, creating work for clients including Essity, Ford and Mars.

He will have full responsibility for all departments across the Omnicom shop and report to Jim Moser, chairman of BBDO in Europe. 

Alex Grieve, chief creative officer at AMV BBDO, chief strategy officer Tom White and chief customer officer David Edwards will report to Hawkey and work alongside him to rejuvenate the agency, which was previously the biggest ad shop in the country by billings. 

AMV BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi are currently negotiating Hawkey's start date.

Still only 34 years old, Hawkey joined Saatchi & Saatchi eight years ago as an account manager. After working on clients including EE, Guinness and Visa, he rose to managing director in 2017, chief operating officer in 2018 and then chief executive last year

Andrew Robertson, global chief executive of BBDO Worldwide, said: “Sam has an infectious energy and passion for creativity, a refreshingly crisp perspective on the future of the business and a proven ability to lead. He asks good questions and listens hard. It’s no wonder he is as effective as he is at connecting both with clients and his people.”

Hawkey replaces Sarah Douglas, who left the agency after two decades last month. During the two and a half years that she was chief executive, AMV BBDO excelled creatively (it was named Agency of the Year at the 2021 D&AD Awards) but lost a number of accounts. 

The biggest advertising agency in the UK by billings for many years, AMV BBDO dropped to second in 2019 and then fifth in the latest Nielsen tables in 2020 in Campaign's annual School Reports. One of its major losses was BT, which moved to Saatchi & Saatchi in two stages in 2019 and 2020.

By contrast, Saatchi & Saatchi moved up to sixth, from eighth a year earlier, by Nielsen billings last year.

Hawkey said: “Having once stood outside the AMV offices as an account manager ready for an interview, I got the distinct feeling I was entering the creative pinnacle. Since then, I have watched with a deep respect at their ability to consistently transform businesses and brands with an unwavering belief in the power of creative ideas.

“Now I get the opportunity to work with Alex and the team to shape, grow and transform one of the most iconic agency brands in the world and I simply can’t wait to get going.” 

Saatchi & Saatchi London has hired Chris Kay, CEO of Asia Pacific and global partner at 72andSunny, to replace Hawkey as its CEO.

Magnus Djaba, global president at Saatchi & Saatchi, said of Hawkey's departure: “I was once told talent is something you don’t own, you borrow. So, you must nurture it and when the time comes for it to go, you must ensure you return it in a better place than when you received it. I feel we have done that with Sam. I’m proud and excited for him to take his next step.”

AMV and Saatchi & Saatchi are two of London's most celebrated agencies, founded in 1977 and 1970, respectively.

Hawkey's appointment is one of two causes of celebration for AMV this week: the agency has also won a raft of awards at Cannes Lions, including two Grands Prix on the first day alone.

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